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California researchers keep an eye on international climate conference in Scotland

Erik Anderson
Waves wash into the shore in La Jolla in this undated photo.

San Diego's scientists are hoping for the best from next week's international climate conference.

San Diego researchers are tracking the events at the international climate summit that begins Sunday in Glasgow, Scotland.

The United Kingdom is hosting the 26th UN climate change conference that will gather the world’s leading climate researchers and world political leaders.

UC San Diego graduate researcher Gabriella Berman is splitting her attention between her work on deep sea organisms and the influential climate summit, which she will attend next week.


Berman studies deep sea animals that help the ecosystem process and breakdown bones that drift down to the ocean floor.

She holds up a small glass jar with what looks like long spindly white plants growing out of a piece of bone. But those creatures are actually animals.

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Berman points to a big chunk of bone pulled off the ocean floor.

“It’s kind of old now. I think it’s from 2019, but it used to have Osedax,” Berman said. “Osedax is the name of the organism that I study, growing out of it.”


Berman is helping set the baseline for the species, which haven’t been studied a lot.

And she is concerned about the future. Berman worries deep sea mining could ruin their habitat, and she knows climate change will not leave the deep ocean untouched.

When Berman goes to Scotland for the conference, she hopes to see how scientists make their case for change.

A recent United Nations climate report concludes that the world isn’t moving fast enough to reduce the impact of climate change. The UN Secretary General says time is running out to meet the Paris Climate Accord’s greenhouse gas reduction targets, and there is a leadership gap.

But the director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, Margaret Leinen, is optimistic the climate conference will be productive.

“That conference and the deliberations of all the nations that are a part of it really rely on science in order to form the way that they approach the problem of climate change,” Leinen said.

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There has been a shift in the understanding of climate change because the impact is not limited to wildfires, drought and rainstorms. The ocean matters too.

“Ninety-three percent of the heat that’s been generated from greenhouse gasses is in the ocean,” Leinen said, “93 percent. So it has really protected us from far greater impacts on land.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom is leading a delegation to highlight the progress the state has made reducing greenhouse gas emissions while keeping the state’s economy among the world’s largest.

The governor hopes to rally world leaders to end their reliance of fossil fuels, a position California is moving toward.

“If we’re going to save the world, we’re going to do it with batteries,” said Michael Ferry, the director of Energy Storage and Systems at UC San Diego.

Batteries, he said, are uniquely positioned to help decarbonize two of the economy’s largest and most important sectors.

“The first is the power sector, which is electricity production and supply,” Ferry said. “And transportation, which is of course how we move ourselves. How we move our goods, our food and all of the other necessities of our modern world.”

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California researchers keep an eye on international climate conference in Scotland

Electric cars and utility scale battery storage are both getting better and more efficient. California hit a milestone this past June, when, for about ten minutes, 4% of the state’s electricity was supplied by batteries.

Ferry will be in Glasgow next week to huddle with other scientists, and he looks forward to seeing the United States reestablish itself as a leader in addressing climate change.

“I think that it’s incredibly important and I think we have to be optimistic,” Ferry said. “We have to be bold. And we’ve been doing that in California for the last 15 years when it comes to climate change. And we have results to share with the world.”